Accessibility Conformance Report

The information presented within this glossary entry is aimed at website owners seeking to learn the ropes of web accessibility. Technical elements are described in layman’s terms, and, as a rule, all topics pertaining to the legalities of web accessibility are presented in as simplified a manner as possible. This guide has no legal bearing, and cannot be relied on in the case of litigation.

The Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) is a formal document that evaluates how well a product or service adheres to established accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It serves as a comprehensive review, providing insights into the level of accessibility a product or service offers, and is often used for both internal assessments and external compliance checks.

The Accessibility Conformance report is closely related to the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), which is a standardized form that vendors use to state how their products comply with accessibility standards. Once a VPAT is filled out, it will then be referred to as an Accessibility Conformance Report. 

The key components of an Accessibility Conformance Report

The Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) lists the accessibility criteria that an information and communication technology (ICT) product - such as a website - will need to meet. A score will be assigned for each criterion, denoting whether the product supports, partially supports, or does not support it. If a criterion does not apply to a given ICT product, ‘Not Applicable’ will be recorded. These elements are crucial for understanding how well the product or service aligns with established accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The report also specifies the version of the guidelines or standards against which the evaluation is conducted, ensuring that stakeholders are clear on the context of the assessment.

Detailed findings are often presented in a tabular format, making it easier for readers to understand which aspects of the product meet or fail to meet each criterion. This structured approach allows for a comprehensive and transparent evaluation, making the ACR a valuable tool for both developers and end-users.

The legal and regulatory importance of an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) is particularly evident for those who need to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 508 requires that federal agencies, federally-funded organizations, and service providers to such bodies make their information and communication technology (ICT) accessible to people with disabilities. To fully-comply with the law, organizations are obligated to fill out a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), a standardized form that outlines how their products or services meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards. It is worth noting that a VPAT filled out for Section 508 conformance will contain some additional criteria beyond those found in the WCAG.

Who prepares an Accessibility Conformance Report?

The preparation of an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) is often entrusted to experts in the field of accessibility, although it can also be conducted internally within an organization. Third-party experts bring a level of objectivity and specialized knowledge that can enhance the credibility and accuracy of the report. These experts are well-versed in accessibility standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and are trained to conduct rigorous evaluations.

Uses and stakeholders of an Accessibility Conformance Report

The Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) serves multiple purposes and is valuable to a diverse group of stakeholders. For website owners, developers, and service providers, the ACR is a testament to the seriousness in which they treat the unique needs of the various disability communities. It is also a pivotal step in complying with web accessibility legislation. Clients or end-users seeking accessible solutions can use the ACR to make informed decisions about which products meet their needs. Additionally, the ACR is often utilized by regulators, internal teams, and other stakeholders to assess the level of accessibility a product or service offers. 

Where should the Accessibility Conformance Report be presented?

The Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) should be readily available to all relevant stakeholders, and its presentation can vary depending on the audience and purpose. For internal teams and developers, the ACR can be integrated into project documentation or hosted on an internal server for easy access. When dealing with clients, regulators, or potential customers, the ACR may be presented as part of a proposal or compliance package. 

Some organizations also choose to make their ACR publicly available on their website to demonstrate their commitment to accessibility.

Updating an Accessibility Conformance Report

Maintaining an up-to-date Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) is essential for ensuring ongoing compliance with relecant legislation, especially as products or services undergo changes or updates. Additionally, accessibility standards themselves may evolve over time, necessitating revisions to the ACR to reflect current guidelines. An outdated ACR can misrepresent the current state of an ICT product's accessibility, potentially leading to compliance issues or misinformed decisions by stakeholders. Therefore, it's crucial to regularly review and update the ACR to capture any changes in the product, service, or relevant accessibility standards, ensuring that the document remains a reliable and accurate resource for all stakeholders.

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